Who Is Most to Blame for the Angels' Nightmare?
Record-wise, the 2013 Los Angeles Angels are on pace to be the worst team that Mike Scioscia has ever managed in the majors.
Consequently, Jon Paul Morosi of Fox Sports tweeted that either Scioscia or general manager Jerry Dipoto will likely be relieved of their duties this offseason. "Philosophical differences" between the two have hindered team success, he added.
Who actually is most to blame for this franchise's nightmarish erosion? Is it Scioscia, Dipoto or someone else entirely?
The Angels entered this season under championship-or-bust pressure, but enter Friday night at a putrid 55-71 overall. They could be mathematically eliminated from October baseball within the next couple of weeks.
Countless factors contributed to this tragedy but none more so than these five.
5. Albert Pujols
Already in gradual decline, Albert Pujols reached free agency desiring a lifetime contract.
When the St. Louis Cardinals weren't willing to take that step, the Los Angeles Angels swooped him up with a decade-long commitment. Its guaranteed value only pales in comparison to past Alex Rodriguez deals.
The future Hall of Famer slumped from the get-go and failed to hit a single home run in April 2012. As a result, the Halos sunk into last place.
Although Mike Trout's heroics would soon elevate the team above the .500 mark and back into the contention, more veteran talent was needed to make up the deficit in the standings. That's how the desperate Zack Greinke trade came about (more about that soon).
If Pujols didn't underachieve initially, the Angels wouldn't have fallen into such a hole. Because they did, the choice was made to mortgage the future to get a rental to dig them out of it.
Pujols contributed a miserable—by his standards—.767 OPS in 2013 before succumbing to a season-ending foot injury.
There's still $212 million remaining on his contract.
4. Mike Scioscia
Without intimate knowledge of the behind-the-scenes activities, we can't blame Mike Scioscia for the fact that numerous integral players have disappointed under his watch.
However, one flaw in his managerial strategy is painfully evident—blind loyalty.
This became easily observable during the 2012-13 season.
Right-hander Ernesto Frieri serves as a great example. The Los Angeles Angels traded for him early that summer to bolster their bullpen, and he rewarded them with 26 consecutive scoreless appearances prior to the All-Star break. His reliance on fly balls and general wildness predictably led to regression in the second half, but Scioscia never shied away from using him in high-leverage situations. Even in 2013, Frieri has inexplicable job security.
Then, there was breakout star Mark Trumbo. He batted .306/.358/.608 heading into the 2012 Midsummer Classic.
Trumbo plummeted to a .630 OPS from that point forward, but Scioscia didn't noticeably restrict his playing time until the season's final weeks. The adjustment came too late.
3. Tony Reagins
Tony Reagins ascended to the general manager's role following the team's elimination in the 2007 postseason.
From the very beginning of his tenure, the Los Angeles Angels were in win-now mode. Ownership was understandably ecstatic about his work after consecutive AL West division titles in 2008 and 2009, and he received a contract extension.
Most of his significant free-agent signings, however, were incredibly ill-advised.
For example, Reagins negotiated multi-year deals with Brian Fuentes and Fernando Rodney based primarily on their past saves totals. He also relinquished a future first-round draft pick to get Fuentes.
The trades under his watchful eye were even uglier, most notably the Vernon Wells acquisition.
The Halos absorbed most of his monstrous contract and ended up with a declining outfielder who barely performed at replacement level. In hindsight, the Dan Haren blockbuster was also catastrophic. Although he pitched fairly well for L.A. overall, the package that went to the Arizona Diamondbacks included Patrick Corbin and Tyler Skaggs.
2. Jerry Dipoto
Thanks to owner Arte Moreno and his new $3 billion television deal, current general manager Jerry Dipoto has been able to spend on par with baseball's traditional juggernauts.
Dipoto signed Albert Pujols. Dipoto signed Josh Hamilton. Dipoto traded for Zack Greinke.
Let's not dwell on those first two transactions. They instantly looked like overpays, and Pujols and Hamilton will continue to deter the Los Angeles Angels from competing as they advance deeper into their thirties and their back-loaded contracts hog a greater percentage of the payroll.
The glaring problem with the Greinke move was the right-hander's impending free agency. Under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, Dipoto must have known that splitting the summer with two teams made him ineligible for an offseason qualifying offer.
In a humiliating sequence, the GM used Jean Segura, his shortstop of the future, as the trade's centerpiece; Greinke pitched respectably but failed to lead them to the playoffs; the Angels failed to extend/re-sign Greinke during the winter and they received no draft-pick compensation when he left.
Since then, Dipoto has dealt Jordan Walden for Tommy Hanson, guaranteed $15 million to Joe Blanton and paid Ryan Madson $3.25 million for nothing.
1. Texas Rangers
The Los Angeles Angels envy the Texas Rangers. Those rivals to the east somehow get exceptional production from moderately priced free agents, and they develop difference-makers from within their own farm system.
Since the Rangers emerged as a World Series threat in 2010, the Halos have been constantly playing catch-up.
L.A. acquired Zack Greinke to offset the Cliff Lee trade and splurged on Josh Hamilton so that Texas wouldn't retain him.
Sure, the aforementioned individuals shouldn't be taken of the hook. Just understand that their poor decisions and performances have been largely influenced by the frustration of eternally looking up at those pesky Rangers.
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